Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Adventures of Frizzhead and German Girl

I don’t feel like I’ve found “my” people yet in Paris, or maybe it’s just that my idea of friends hasn’t quite caught up to the new reality of my life. The close-knit community at St. Mary’s is a far cry from the dynamics of adult city life—it’s funny how being isolated as a school made us much less isolated as individuals. At any rate, I am learning to enjoy my alone time without being lonely. Usually. But then there are nights like Tuesday night, when I decided after an hour of moping that I should leave my room, hop a metro stop up and treat myself to a McFlurry (I know, I know, cliché, but pastry shops close early and I swear MacDo is actually better here). Except that, as soon as I got on the train, who should I run into in my metro car than the German girl from two doors down, Dorothee (the same one I dragged to couscous a few weeks ago).

Dorothee was as chic as all European girls and clearly dressed to go out, and I felt a little dumb in comparison in my sweatshirt and tennis shoes with my lack of itinerary. She asked me where I was headed. “Out to find a crepe,” I said, excusing the white lie with the desire to not further encourage the American stereotype as obese hamburger-lovers. “I have a craving for something sweet.”

“All alone?”

I shrugged.

“It’s not a crepe, but I have some sweet white wine, and I’m going to go meet up with some girlfriends at the Eiffel Tower to pregame before we go to the club. Do you want to come?”

And that was how I ended up unexpectedly staying out until 2am the night before Assia Djebar’s class at Place de Trocadero. Between Dorothee, her friends (another German named Kersten and a Belgian girl) and me, we finished three bottles of wine, watched a break-dancing group go through their routine twice, waved off countless souvenir-sellers hawking their usual jingling rings of Eiffel tower key chains and various glowing night items, staying just long enough to see the tower sparkle a final time before stumbling back to the metro, laughing, to part ways. That night was also the closest I have ever come to pissing my pants—when the 6 line stopped for ten minutes, I laughed, crossing me legs, but once I got to my change at the RER platform only to find the one bathroom “hors service” and the next train ten minutes away, it wasn’t funny any more. I imagined myself standing forlornly in a puddle, encircled by sneering French spectators—can you get arrested for peeing yourself in public? As if taunting me, a nearby drunk man unzipped and pissed on the track. When the train finally pulled up to my stop I burst out, bolted up the escalator and across the street, punched in my keycode, and had my card out and unready to unlock the first-floor bathroom. My plan hit a slight hitch when I realized I let myself into the shower room instead, but—merci Dieu!—the final stall was a toilet.

Although I had planned to have a night-in after yesterday’s tiring Chateau visit, last night ended up being another adventure with Dorothee. Antsy for something to do, she accepted a texted invitation to attend an Erasmus party on a boat on the Seine and, on a whim, I decided to go along for the ride. We finished a bottle of wine together as we primped then ran to catch the metro to get there in time for the before-midnight free entry. We only just made it. We headed downstairs immediately where the dance floor was still relatively empty, with most students crowded around the bar and into booths along the walls. By the time I left the dance floor two hours later to ask the bartender for some water (I never understand why I’m the only one that does this…dancing makes me work up a sweat!) and find the bathroom, I had to squeeze through hoards of people to get there.

However, it turns out that going to the bathroom on a dark, crowded dance boat is a bad idea if you plan on ever rejoining your group. I spent the next hour trying (unsuccessfully) to track down Dorothee downstairs, above deck and outside (we had agreed to leave at 2/3 am and split a taxi). I sat down in a booth to survey the crowded dance floor, but overwhelmed and starting to get tired, I closed my eyes. Mistake number two. I immediately had the handsy attention of several skeezy guys who incorrectly assumed I was wasted (and I guess easy?). I shook them off easily enough but decided that was my cue to make an exit and hope that Dorothee could find her own way home.

I got off the boat and walked up to the main road, shivering in my club attire in the nippy 3am air (Dorothee had my sweater in her purse) and nursing feet that had been rubbed raw from my heels (never again! Flats forever!). After 25 minutes or so I was getting numb and hadn’t succeeded in hailing a single cab, although more than a hundred occupied ones had seemed to pass by. Rather than brave the club boat again with its burly bouncers and crowd of listless boys smoking cigarettes out front, trying to weasel their way on, I went up to the pay-booth in the parking lot and asked the attendant what I was doing wrong about cabs. The man, a Tunisian, welcomed me into the booth through the back door and turned on the heat for me. I sat with him for half an hour (he said that taxis would often pass through later in the night for boat clients), trying Arabic off-an-on between his transactions with clubbers driving home. In the end, he saw I was getting tired and asked a young couple at the window if they wouldn’t mind driving me up somewhere where I might have more success in hailing a cab (I can hear mom wincing as she reads this…I’m fine!). The couple graciously let me into their car, and we talked in a mix of English-Spanish-French (she was Venezuelan, he was French) while they drove me to Champs Elysee and right up to an empty cab. Even the cab ride home was a bit crazy, as the driver was a greasy-haired, blackmetal-head that drove with a guitar in the front seat. I spent the entire drive discussing metal and dissing Marylin Manson and Eminem in a delightfully slangy French, pretending like I knew what I was talking about.

I caught up with Dorothee again this morning. Her face was puffy from crying and a lack of sleep, and she apparently had a nightmare of a night after we lost each other. Her purse was snatched from a booth, putting me out a sweater (darn, I really liked that one) but her out 50 euro, three credit cards, her student/resident cards, her passport and two cell phones (one German, one French). She spent the rest of the night on the phone with some pissed off parents and at the police station filing a formal report. When she finally made it back here around 9 this morning she had to be let into her room by security and then pay to have the lock changed.

And so, faithful readers, the morals of the story: forgo the purse and stick with shoving the essentials into cleavage/undergarments. Heels are evil. Pee before getting on the metro, and not at all on a boat. And speaking of pee, know that Marylin Manson upped the ante from his usual peeing on the crowd technique to trying to infect them with swine flu, because it’ll get you a long way with a crazy cab driver. Whew.

1 comment:

  1. glad you survived! I totally relate in regards to making sketchy(ish) decisions that turn out okay that parents would freak about.... and screw heels!